Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Maryland

My sister is the executor of my deceased father's estate. My brother informed me that before my father passed away, he told him in front of two witnesses that he would have my father's vehicle but after my father passed away, my sister took control and put the vehicle sale into his estate account even though my brother has statements from the witnesses and if he wants the vehicle, he has to buy it from the blue book if all the shareholders listed in the Will agree. Can my brother contest and will the statements from the witnesses help him get the vehicle? Everyone in the Will gets one share but my sister gets two shares because she told my father that she has high debts. Is this really undue influence? Appreciate your answers. Thanks.

Asked on 5/28/11, 9:58 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Phillip M. Cook Cook Legal Services, LLC

I'm sorry your father passed. And I'm sorry to give you some more bad news --

1. The terms of a valid will controls -- it does not matter what your father said, how many people he said it in front of, and how many witness statements your brother has. If your father had a valid will, then it will be honored by the Court if you challenge it. Assuming your father was in decent mental and physical shape at the time the will was written, your father was a grown man and had the right to distribute his estate as he saw fit. I know this may seem unfair to some of the siblings, and it may be unfair, but your father's written wishes set forth in his will will be honored by the Court.

2. It sounds like your sister may be the personal representative/executor of the estate. If so, it is her LEGAL DUTY to make sure that the vehicle is included in the estate if it was not specifically left to someone in the will. If this is the case, she is simply doing her job as executor and has done nothing wrong. If your brother wants the car, he is likely going to have to pay the estate for it, just like anyone else.

3. Your sister sweet-talking or lying to your father before he died in order to get a bigger share of his estate may not sit well with the other siblings, it may be immoral, but it likely does NOT rise to the level of undue influence such that a court would not honor the terms of the will. You make it sound like your father felt sorry for your sister b/c of her debts -- making someone feel sorry for your debt is not undue influence.

A final unsolicited thought: only you know what kind of person your sister is. She may be the most awful human being on earth. BUT, your father was the one who wrote the will, your father was the one who left your sister the larger share, and your father was the one who left your brother high and dry regarding the car. That's not your sister's fault -- it's your father's own misdeed (see discussion above about him being a grown man). If it was important to your father that all of his children split his estate equally, and that his son gets his car, he would have put that in his will. He didn't.

Try to move on and not let this tear you up inside and destroy your relationship with your siblings in the process.

Best of luck.*****The above is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client privilege.******

Read more
Answered on 5/29/11, 12:58 pm

Related Questions & Answers

More Probate, Trusts, Wills & Estates questions and answers in Maryland